In the Old Testament, some of the prophets had the nickname of being known as the “prophet of doom”- among them are Hosea, Jeremiah, Amos, and others.  They were known by this name because they were people who predicted that bad things would happen. Though they were men who lived thousands of years ago, these predictions even continue to happen today. At the turn of every century, we will often read about the end of the world – yet we live on. Some of us will also remember when there was a period when Armageddon and apocalyptic-like movies were aplenty.

The conversation about what the end-times would be like is not far off in the generation we live in. When we were at the height of the pandemic, some were saying that this was the beginning of the end of the world. Sometimes, even the changes that Pope Francis intends to bring into the life of the Church is seen by some as the end of the Church.

The Gospel today precisely addresses the issue of the end times. Just like us today, the people in Jesus’ time were also keen to know when will the end be. In one sweeping statement that we hear in the Gospel today, Jesus clearly says, “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.”

The reason why we have this Gospel is because we are approaching the end of our liturgical year. Next Sunday is the Solemnity of Christ the King and then we enter into Advent. That is why today the readings direct our attention to the end of time. Many of us are not only curious about the end times but perhaps also fear the end of the world, the end of time.

Let us not forget that the end is also a time to be gathered to the Lord with all who have gone before us and those who may come after us. Given that our human mind is limited, it is only normal that fear accompanies that thought because we wonder ‘What if I will not be counted among those who are chosen’?

If we read the verses that precede and look at today’s Gospel as one unit, Jesus is in fact teaching His disciples and us how to live in the present. Though the apocalyptic image describes the future, the focus of Jesus is to draw His disciples to the here and now. We should neither be worried about the date of the end of the world nor what signs will there be to indicate that the end is near.

Contrary to what some may think, the apocalyptic language in the New Testament offers hope rather than doom, salvation rather than destruction.  If there is something that we can reflect on this Sunday more than ever is, in a world where there is hate, suffering, and tears, how can we as followers of Jesus be signs of hope and sources of love, joy, and peace.

Today we celebrate in the Church, World Day of the Poor. Pope Francis in his message for today says “Christ’s Gospel summons us to display special concern for the poor and to recognise the varied and excessive forms of moral and social disorder that are generating ever new forms of poverty.” Poverty expresses itself in many forms, not just material or financial poverty. The pandemic has indeed exposed new forms of poverty – the deprivation of spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and psychological support structures have resulted  challenges for humanity.

In the midst of such a great disruption, how can we be signs of hope and sources of love, joy, and peace is the question every disciple of Jesus needs to ask today. There is a long road to recovery, but we must start somewhere. Our starting point must be empathy and not apathy. Empathy leads us to understand and share the feelings of others, whereas apathy is just a lack of concern.

Jesus during His ministry on earth, demonstrates a strong empathetic understanding that undergirds compassion – Jesus is the epitome of true empathy. The empathy of Christ was the bridge that connects suffering humanity to our Heavenly Father. 

As we are presented with the end of time images this Sunday, let us be mindful of the hope that God offers is when Jesus will gather all that has been given to Him. Mindful of that promise, we who belong to Him, must be signs of hope and sources of love, joy, and peace in the present and not the future, here where we are and not when the end is near…. Prophets of hope and not of doom.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (14 Nov 2021)